Watergate Scandal: Inside look at Davis & Cox & Charles Rebozo

Killian Donohue

The Watergate Scandal: Inside look into Davis and Cox & Charles Rebozo 

The Watergate Hotel

The Watergate Hotel

In June of 1972 James P. Donohue, Jr. was finishing his work on his Masters when the Watergate burglary was halted. He started law school in September of that same year. At that time, Watergate was just a small story, not gathering much interest from the public. However, by January of 1974, now a second year law student at Fordham University, it was a major news story.  It was at that point, that James was hired as a part-time law clerk by the New York firm of Davis and Cox and personally interacted with one of the many players who came before the Senate Watergate Committee. In that role, he saw firsthand now the concept of simply being forthright was foreign to many people, not just Nixon.  In his book, American Dreams, H.W. Brands, in examining the Watergate Scandal, speculates what could have been, “Had Nixon stepped forthrightly in front of the Washington Post story, accepted responsibility for the actions of the Plumbers, and looped off a few heads among the White House staff… But forthrightness wasn’t in Nixon.”[1]  As will be shown from James Donohue’s experience at the firm of Davis & Cox, Nixon was not the only one who attempted to stonewall instead of stepping up and accepting responsibility.  This was the same attitude shown by Chester Davis, of Davis & Cox, while James Donohue worked there, although almost certainly for other reasons. Chester Davis was one of the people called before the Senate Watergate Committee.  James Donohue’s interaction with Chester Davis was small, but interesting.  In fact, he referred to as an, “outside seat on one of the peripheral issues involving one of the peripheral issues,”[2] of the Watergate scandal.

The Watergate scandal had its roots in the presidential election of 1972 when President Richard Nixon was seeking reelection. He was opposed by the Democratic candidate, George McGovern.  Nixon’s re-election at the time was considered fairly secure. In fact, he won easily.  Despite this, during the campaign, an attempt to burglarize the Democratic National headquarters at the Watergate Hotel was foiled by a security guard, Will Franks.[3]  It seemed too incredible to believe that this burglary effort was somehow related to the election, in light of Nixon’s commanding lead.  Nevertheless, when the burglars were arrested, they initially asserted their 5th amendment privilege as to what they were doing and refused to talk.  The judge who took the case, Judge John Sirica, made it clear that he did not think the arrested defendants were being cooperative or telling the truth. To encourage them to change their position, he gave them significant jail time.[4] By that time, the well-known Washington Post reporters, Robert Woodward and Carl Bernstein, had already broken the story that one of the burglars was connected to Howard Hunt (a former CIA agent then working for the re-election of the President). To arouse even more interest, they alleged that Hunt was connected to Charles Colson the special legal assistant to President Nixon[5].  In short, the Washington Post reporters were drawing a line between the burglars to the President.

In May of 1973 the Senate Committee began to investigate the Watergate break-in and an independent special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, was named to investigate possible presidential improprieties.[6] Ironically, his brother, Maxwell Cox, was the other named partner, in the law firm Davis and Cox that James was working at. That summer, the Senate Committee found out that Nixon has been taping conversations in the oval office and both the Senate Committee and Archibald Cox demanded the tapes be turned over. Nixon refused.[7] This created a major political issue. It became even more serious when Nixon told his Attorney General to fire Cox. The Attorney General, Eliot Richardson, refused pointing out he had promised the Senate that Archibald Cox would be independent of the Attorney General’s office on this matter and he would not interfere with Cox’s work. Rather than comply with the order, he resigned his office. Nixon tried again with deputy attorney general, who also resigned. Finally, Robert Bork, the third in command, reluctantly carried out the order.  This event came to be referred to as the Saturday Night Massacre. Watergate and related issues were now all over the news and James Donohue recalls “the government was at war with itself and the only thing that seemed to be going on in Washington was Watergate investigations.”[8]

While this is going on, a somewhat collateral issue came out of the Watergate investigation.  This concerned an allegation that billionaire Howard Hughes, in 1968, had made a $100,000.00 loan or gift to Richard Nixon, using an individual known as Charles “Bebe” Rebozo as the individual who received the money. Rebozo was a banker in Florida.  He had become a friend of Nixon’s years earlier.[9]  In August of 1973, the Woodward-Bernstein reporters, following up on their Watergate story, broke another story that Rebozo may have been involved in laundering secret campaign contributions to Nixon personally.  The amount of $100,000.00 reported as being the amount they had learned about.  Eventually, it was asserted that the source of $100,000 of these the funds was Howard Hughes. [10]

As investigators followed up that lead, Rebozo acknowledged he had received $100,000 from a Hughes representative, but claimed he never delivered the funds to Nixon or his campaign, but rather held the Hughes money in a safe deposit box for several years. He further asserted that believing the source of the funds might embarrass the President, he decided to return it several years later untouched, to Howard Hughes through one of Hughes’ representatives.  That story seemed incredible and eventually the Senate Committee advised the cash had been delivered to Howard Hughes personal attorney, Chester Davis, wanted to see what he had done with it.   In December of 1973, Chester Davis appeared before the Senate Committee with a briefcase. He reportedly opened the briefcase and dumped the contents on the desk, saying “Here’s the god dam money”.[11] It was 100 packets of 100 dollar bills, allegedly the $100,000 that Rebozo claimed Howard Hughes had provided him in 1968 and he had returned several years later.

The following month James Donohue had become a part time law clerk at the New York law firm of Davis & Cox.  The “Davis” was the same Chester Davis, the personal attorney of Howard Hughes who only a month before had appeared before the Senate Committee.  The “Cox” was Maxwell Cox, who was the brother of Archibald Cox, the Special Prosecutor who had been fired by Nixon just several months earlier. James Donohue knew prior to starting that Davis and Cox was considered a tough litigation firm. Only after he arrived, did he realize that among other things the frim was dealing with a request that Howard Hughes appear before the Senate Committee with respect to the $100,000.00 “loan”.

While at the firm, Donohue’s involvement had little to do with Chester Davis or the Howard Hughes loan.  His assignment was essentially to digest depositions and do research and memorandum of laws on specific legal issues, primarily involving a securities action unrelated to the Watergate hearings. The transcripts involving testimony before the Watergate Committee fell within the purview of one of the associates who worked in the adjoining offices. To the extent there were discussions, by the associates on their progress, it was with the partners, whose offices were even further down the hall. James Donohue did recall, early in his employment, looking over at another table while digesting depositions in another case and seeing transcripts from the hearings before the Senate Committee investigating Watergate. James, “assumed that there was some connection, and then thinking about it, the Bebe Rebozo connection came to mind because that issue had to deal with money that allegedly came from Howard Hughes.”[12]  During his time there, he would have contact with both Chester Davis and Maxwell Cox and the associate working on the $100,000.00 Hughes loan.

Chester Davis was the type of person who was held in high regard by those who knew him and often, with more than a little fear. His work for Hughes apparently kept in out of the office most of the time. In fact, the first time James ran into Chester Hughes, he got a first-hand look at how Chester Davis was viewed by other lawyers.  It was a weekend and he was working in the office with the associate he reported to.  This particular associate had regularly impressed him as being an individual who was unintimidated by anything. He regularly took on other large law firms, large businesses (like the New York Stock Exchange) and even the Federal government.  On the day in question, James Donohue was going back to the office after a short lunch break, and another individual got on the elevator with him and followed him out of the elevator on the same floor.  When James Donohue walked into the office to sign in, the man still followed him. The receptionist said “hello” to this stranger, who then turned and headed down the hall to where the offices were located.  James turned to the receptionist and said, “Who’s that.” And the answer he was given was, “That’s Mr. Davis.”[13]

This being his first encounter with Chester Davis, as James returned to his work place, he stopped by the associate’s office, under whom he had been working. He told him, without much concern, that he had just come up the elevator with Mr. Davis.  As he recalled, the shocked response was, “Chester’s here?” The response clearly indicated that this was no joking matter. The Associate excused himself from what he was doing and headed down the hall to see Chester. It was clear, at that moment, that Chester Davis was not an individual to take lightly, and that the story about him essentially throwing the money at the Senate Watergate Committee, was probably true.

Based on the newspaper reports, it was clear that Chester Davis was also not going to “cooperate” or be forthcoming with the Senate Committee if he could avoid it.  Obviously, as a lawyer, he had a client to represent, yet it did not go unnoticed in the newspapers that his positions were not always consistent. For a while Davis was doing whatever he could to prevent the Watergate Committee from forcing Howard Hughes to testify.  The contradiction apparently did not cause Chester Davis any concern. The similarity, between Nixon’s efforts to stonewall the Senate investigation and the efforts of Chester Davis to stonewall any investigation into his client, were clear, even though the motives may have been different.

In the early part of 1974, the Watergate investigations began to produce results.  One of Nixon’s aids and even Nixon’s own personal counsel were pleading guilty to perjury charges or illegal campaign activities. Nixon was even named as an, “unindicated co-conspirator” in an indictment against sever of his former aids.[14] The focus, as the matter moved forward, continued to beam in on the Whitehouse tape recordings.   By now, a new special prosecutor had been appointed. He subpoenaed the tapes. Nixon and his lawyers refused to turn them over.[15]  The matter now fell into the hands of the courts.  By this time, the issues of the Hughes donation was dropping off the radar as the Senate Committee. While they had been considering trying to get Hughes to testify, essentially they dropped the pursuit of that part of the investigation, in no small part due to the opposition being put up by Chester Davis and his firm.

In July of 1974, the court ordered the tapes to be turned over.  Included in them was the “Smoking Gun” that showed that Nixon and some of his aids within a week of the burglary attempt, were talking about how to “cover-up” the connection to the White House. Within days, impeachment charges were being drafted and Republican leaders in the Senate told Nixon he would not survive the hearing and would be removed.  A few days later, Nixon resigned and the “Great National Nightmare” was over.[16]

About a month later, Nixon received a pardon from President Ford. The issue with Rebozo essentially ended when the $100,000 could not be shown to be recently manufactured. Nixon would, in grand jury testimony a year later, only recently released, confirm that as he far as he knew, Rebozo had held the funds for several years and then turned them over to Chester Davis.  No law was found to have been violated.  For Chester Davis, he continued to be a successful attorney and was involved in some other issues which made the press, but not because of anything that had to do with Nixon. As for James Donohue, this was his first experiences at a law firm and the lesson that one vigorously represented one’s client was clearly shown. He would go on to working at law firms on Wall Street eventually becoming a partner in the firm of Marchi Jaffe Cohen Crystal Rosner & Katz.


[1] H.W. Brands, American Dreams (p.182)

[2] Interview with James Donohue, April 11, 2016.

[3] Fred Emery, Watergate: The Corruption of American Politics and the Fall of Richard Nixon (New York, 1994) 132-3

[4] Bird, David, “Watergate Burglar Arrested on Charge of Coercion,” New York Times (New York, New York) Nov. 2, 1977

[5] Ken Hughes, Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, The Chennault Affair, And The Origins of Watergate (Virginia,2014) 152-9

[6] Genovese, Michael, The Watergate Crisis. (Connecticut, 1999), XXV.

[7] Lardner, George. “Nixon Refuses to Give Tapes to Jaworski: President Withhold.” The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.), May. 2, 1974.

[8] Interview with James Donohue, April 11, 2016.

[9] John M. Crewdson, “Report Questions Rebozo’s Account on Hughes Funds.” The New York Times (New York, N.Y), Jul. 11, 1974

[10] Crewdson, John. “Report Links Watergate to Hughes-Rebozo Funds.” The New York Times (New York, N.Y), Aug. 4, 1974.

[11] “Hughes cash ‘flung’ at panel,” Register Guard, Dec. 5, 1973, 3.

[12] Interview with James Donohue, April 11,, 2016.

[13] Interview with James Donohue, April 28, 2016.

[14] Genovese, Michael, The Watergate Crisis. (Connecticut, 1999), XXVII.

[15] Washington Post Staff, The Presidential Transcripts: With Commentary by the staff of the Washington Post (New York: Delacorte Press), XI.

[16] Klipatrick, Carroll. “Nixon Resigns: Richard Nixon Resign as 37th President of the United States.” The Washington Post (Washington, D.C), Aug. 09, 1974.

Spies: Here, There, and Everywhere

Spies: Here, There, and Everywhere

By Andrea Bisbjerg

Throughout the Cold War, Douglas Stuart — like most Americans — imagined spies in the manner that they were painted in the media: covert, mysterious, sophisticated, and suave. He would eventually learn that these expectations were just that: mere expectations as opposed to realities. After several encounters with double agents, he would find them “so much less interesting than the kind of people that you see on TV or in the movies involved in spying. But, it was also just a function of how pervasive spying was during the Cold War.”[1] This substantiates the panic in the United States where, in H.W. Brands’ words, “concern regarding communists in government, in Hollywood, and in other allegedly sensitive positions in society intensified as the Cold War grew grimmer.”[2] While figures like the late President Joseph McCarthy exacerbated these fears with dramatic rhetoric and wild accusations, the anxiety of the general population was indeed founded on truth.

The American public first became wary of espionage after the detection of Soviet networks which had infiltrated the United States during World War II. These discoveries fueled newfound counterespionage efforts by the American government and the establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947.[3] Over the next decades, despite increasing security measures, spies would continue to funnel information. Michael Sulick postulates that the government’s inability to locate spies rested on the fact that “investigative agencies limited their security programs to narrow investigations of an employee’s communist sympathies instead of his or her overall suitability for work in sensitive positions.”[4] After World War II, the primary reasons for betraying one’s country were no longer ideologically based; rather than truly supporting communism, many spies and double agents were enticed by financial gain.

Rainer Rupp was one such man whom Stuart met while living in Germany teaching American military intelligence officers. Stuart came into contact which Rupp through their work with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and even published chapters in two of Stuarts’ books. Rump “was the head of the NATO economics directory so the highest-level person in their economic department. Because of that, he had the highest level security clearance.”[5] Known at first only by his codename, Topaz — Stuart mistakenly mixed up Rupp’s and his wife’s codenames: Topaz and Turquoise — officials failed to locate the double agent for several years until 1993. Convicted in 1994, Rupp pleaded guilty to smuggling sensitive documents for twelve years between 1977 to 1989.[6] Despite claiming to be motivated solely by ideological beliefs, prosecutors estimated over $400,000 worth of compensation for his efforts.[7] This detail speaks to the growing prevalence of spies motivated specifically by financial gain; however, these claims have never been proven and some sources insist Rupp never received money for the thousands of pages he photographed Eastern Germany’s Stasi’s Central Reconnaissance Administration.[8] This is perhaps echoed in Stuart’s memory of Rupp’s conviction: “it got me to thinking…did I ever see any indications when I would meet with him that there was anything special about him or there was any reason to be suspicious? And the only thing that came to mind was that he was more inclined than most people to complain about his salary and his financial things. He just seemed to be very obsessed with not being adequately compensated.”[9] The double agent has never expressed remorse over his role in the war, but if he truly took so many risks for little to no monetary return, Rupp may have felt underpaid or underappreciated. He appears proud of his service and has stated that “the goal of my reconnaissance work, and that of many other comrades in the secret front, was not to win a war but rather to prevent a war.”[10] Thus, one may never know the rationale behind Rupp’s decisions and those of so many like him.

Although people may speculate as to what reasons drove citizens to betray their countries, the truth will forever remain uncertain and locked in those individuals’ minds. While Stuart was working for his department’s administrator as a graduate student at the University of Southern California, he noticed a completely empty student file labeled “Ben Stiller.” His supervisor assured him that the papers simply had not yet arrived as the student was coming directly from Germany. Stuart soon befriended Stiller and “it very quickly became apparent to me [Stuart] that he was not a German citizen getting a graduate degree…and, little by little, he began to provide me with information…he was indeed a KGB double agent who had escaped from the Middle East and was in hiding because the government believed that he was a high enough KGB agent that he indeed was in danger of being killed.”[11] Eventually, Stuart would learn Stiller’s true identity: Vladimir Sakharov, a former diplomat who served in Yemen, Egypt and Kuwait between 1967 and 1971. He became involved with the KGB while in Yemen and ended up spending over two years as a double agent reporting to the United States Central Intelligence Agency. He ultimately defected to the United States in order to avoid returning to Moscow and has since provided information and perspective on the Soviet Union.[12] He has discussed Soviet culture, their supposed inferiority complex, and has extensively described Yuri Andropov, the chairman of the KGB from 1967 to 1982 (particularly his fascination with American culture[13]).[14][15] Vladimir Sakharov, unbeknownst to Stuart at the time, was relatively well-known within his field and is featured as chapter two “Secrets of the Desert” in John Barron’s KGB: The Secret Work of the Soviet Secret Agents.[16] In Barron’s book, he describes Sakharov as “an intelligent and sensitive KGB officer stationed in the Middle East, who recognizing the oppression of liberty and the evil falsifications of communism.” Once, Stuart did ask “what made him [Sakharov] betray his country and I said, ‘You know, was it democracy and freedom and the ideologies that we stand for here in the West?’ and he thought for a second and he said, “I did it for Frank Sinatra records and a Johnson outboard motor.’”[17] While it is evident that Sakharov merely provided a lighthearted and humorous response, it goes to show that society will never truly know the reasons and factors which contribute to a person’s conscious decision to take such risk.

Douglas T. Stuart, 1992

Douglas T. Stuart teaching at Dickinson College, 1992

While double agents and defectors were discovered throughout the duration of the Cold War, most revelations occurred after its end. As governments began to gain access to various archives, documents, and general classified information, they could more easily narrow down areas where such activity was prevalent and, in some cases, individuals involved. For a portion of the Cold War, Stuart had worked overseas but returned by 1992 and was teaching at Dickinson College. He recalls giving a guest lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he received an urgent phone call from where he had taught in Italy, John Hopkins: “They wanted me to know I was the front page of The Repubblica, the main newspaper, one of the main newspapers in Italy. The title of the article was ‘The sixth man was an American professor.’”[18] As archives were opened, the Western governments quickly realized that Czech Slovakia was a hub for spies during the Cold War and had discovered five high-ranking Italian officials and scholars who had been involved. Stuart’s name appeared in these documents although they “speculated that maybe I wasn’t like the other five people, a spy, because the other five all had codenames and I did not. And so, consequently, I mean talk about how stupid the logic was: that the fact that I did or did not have a code name mattered at all.”[19] This correlates both with the assumed prevalence of spying, but also the irrationality of that assumption. While, as Brands describes it, “some of the anxieties were perfectly rational. Soviet communism was a threat. Spies did exist,”[20] Stuart’s experience truly exemplifies the absurd justifications which determined who was or was not an undercover agent. He has since concluded that his name was in these files because of his connection another one of the five revealed spies. Because Stuart had been involved with NATO, this scholar (whom Stuart occasionally worked with) “started treating me as if I were providing him with all this high-level top secret stuff which, of course, was absolutely untrue. He was elevating the significance of my stuff to justify his own existence and his own salary.”[21] The scholar and double agent needed to report to higher officials and, in order to do so regularly, exaggerated the importance of Stuart and his information. This man succeeded by merely manipulating the casual comments of a coworker, highlighting the ubiquity of spying and also the nonchalance of it.

But if there is a lesson to be learned from Stuart’s numerous encounters with double agents from both the American and Soviet side of the Cold War, “it’s first off how pervasive this spying was, particularly for folks that just found themselves doing research in certain kinds of areas and, second, how really kind of uninteresting these people were who were spies.”[22] Stuart’s experiences all occurred in normal settings, in places of work. However, he managed to come into contact with various people who all, ultimately, were working against their respective agencies or countries. This underlines the ordinariness of these double agents who were “in my [Stuart’s] experience anyway, people who were just trying to pick up a little extra pocket money or just fell into this position and thought it was a good idea for them to be doing this.”[23] His encounters demonstrate how the paranoia of the public was well-founded and legitimate, but only to a certain degree. These agents existed, perhaps as ubiquitous as feared, but their roles and they themselves were overstated to be far more extravagant than in actuality.

[1] Interview with Douglas T. Stuart, Carlisle, PA, April 13, 2016.

[2] H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 51.

[3] Michael J. Sulick, Spying in America: Espionage from the Revolutionary War to the Dawn of the Cold War (Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 2012), 265.

[4] Ibid, 266.

[5] Interview with Douglas T. Stuart, Carlisle, PA, April 13, 2016.

[6] Rick Atkinson, “Spy against NATO given 12 years,” Wilmington Morning Star, Nov. 18, 1994, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1454&dat=19941118&id=L7ksAAAAIBAJ&sjid=DRUEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6793,1244478&hl=en

[7] Mary Williams Walsh, “Spy Gets 12-Year Term in Germany: Espionage: Rainer Rupp admitted passing NATO documents to East’s security agency. Prosecutors called case the worst in alliance history.” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 18, 1994, http://articles.latimes.com/1994-11-18/news/mn-64323_1_rainer-rupp

[8] Wladek Flakin, “Cooling the Cold War,” Exberliner, Jan. 3, 2013, http://www.exberliner.com/features/people/the-spy-who-saved-the-world/

[9] Interview with Douglas T. Stuart, Carlisle, PA, April 13, 2016.

[10] Flakin.

[11] Interview with Douglas T. Stuart, Carlisle, PA, April 13, 2016.

[12] Special to The New York Times, “Russian Says U.S. Fascinates K.G.B.’s Chief,” New York Times, June 13, 1982 [Proquest]

[13] Ibid.

[14] David M. Giles, “Culture Called Best Weapon,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 1, 1987, http://articles.philly.com/1987-11-01/news/26173528_1_soviet-diplomat-soviet-domestic-policy-double-agent

[15] Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Yury Vladimirovich Andropov”, last modified Jan. 4, 2016, http://www.britannica.com/biography/Yury-Vladimirovich-Andropov.

[16] Miguel Faria, “KGB — The Secret Work of the Soviet Secret Agents,” Amazon, Dec. 25, 2012.

[17] Interview with Douglas T. Stuart, Carlisle, PA, April 13, 2016.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Brands, 53.

[21] Interview with Douglas T. Stuart, Carlisle, PA, April 13, 2016.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

Opposition: Objection to the War in Vietnam

By Jack Lodge

1969 Draft Lottery

First Draft Lottery (Courtesy of HistoryNet)

Tom Hay was a freshman at Earlham College when the first United States Army Draft-Lottery broadcast aired across the nation in December of 1969, in order to acquire more troops to combat the ever growing communist threat of the North Vietnamese in South East Asia. Hay remembers the night of the lottery, saying “when the day came to draw the numbers out of the big drum, I can still remember it all the boys of draft age that year gathered into a room, and it was just the boys… I can still see the faces of the people who got numbers of like one, two or three…” [1]

That night only numbers one through one hundred and twenty were chosen for service in Vietnam. Hay’s number was 254. “I had the luxury of just walking away and planning my life without having to worry about being drafted or anything.”[2] Hay recalls thankfully, however as H.W. brands writes in his book American Dreams, “Some Americans had objected to the war in Vietnam from the outset.”[3] Hay was one of those Americans who opposed the war because of his upbringing in the Quaker Community and their tradition of nonviolence.

Had he been drafted Hay would have registered to receive conscientious objector status, which mean he would have to appear in front of a draft board to make his case on why he could could not serve. Hay was confident that because of his Quaker upbringing that “The cards would have been stacked in my favor, coming from southern Chester County, which has so many Quakers… and being a Quaker of course with their tradition of pacifism and not participating in war, I think there was very little chance that I wouldn’t have been granted my conscientious objector status…”[4] During this time many men drafted into service via the lottery system would try to claim conscientious objector status, and the majority succeeded like Hay’s older brother who was granted conscientious objector status and was sent to work in Denver, Colorado as an orderly. Hay describes the process of alternative service as “what you do is you present options and they approve one… I don’t think they sent you somewhere, you offered and said ‘well, I’ll do this,’ and they said well that’s okay or that’s not okay.”[5] However, those who did not go to war faced scrutiny on the homefront.

In the early years of the conflict Hay recalls thatinitially people who were against the war were pretty much looked down upon as being unpatriotic, or “chicken,” or… you know… whatever, just somehow not quite adequate, either in terms of their love of country or their manliness.”[6] This form of disdain and apprehension of citizens who objected to the war in Vietnam was spread throughout the country to the point that draft boards in certain areas of the country would not approve any application for conscientious objector status.[7] In many instances, those applying for conscientious objector status, claiming that Vietnam in particular was an “unjust war.” Judges and draft boards alike were skeptical of this claim and saw it as a cop-out in order for the majority of applicants to avoid service.[8] However, Hay would not have had this problem, coming from an area of the country that had a high population of Quakers and himself being a practicing Quaker. Religion was a large factor or why people who applied for conscientious objector status were approved. In some cases, though an individual had their own moral objections to war, they were not granted conscientious objector status because they had no religious foundation for their opposition.[9]

Not only did some judges and draft boards have disdain for would-be conscientious objectors, but the area in which Hay was going school at the time, Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana “was at that point… a very conservative town. In fact a number of people earned a living at the munitions factory in Richmond and had no patience or tolerance for the ‘hippy-Quakers’ at Earlham.”[10] This was a different environment than what Tom was used to; growing up in southern Chester County, Pennsylvania in a Quaker community, and even Earlham college which had been “entirely supportive of my attitudes and my beliefs.” Hay describes Earlham College as a “community isolated within its’ own community.”[11]

Hay likens the Earlham College community as similar to that of the community in which he grew up being more oriented with the Quaker traditions. As result, the war was heavily protested on his campus in the form of protest marches, or to the more extreme, tearing up draft cards.[12] Though Hay never tore up his draft card, he recalls friends who did: “Certainly I had friends who were a little bit more extreme than me the tore up their draft cards, which was against the law. They did it publicly or on purpose in front of an official and some of them did time in jail, which was brutal, some of them were horribly mistreated by other prisoners because, again, they were considered to be cowards.”[13] Hay goes to recount an experience of a friends husband, saying that “I don’t recall how long his sentence was, at least a year, and he was never the same again when he came out- he was emotionally traumatized- I do not know specifically what happened to him but [I] can imagine [what happened to him] because draft resisters were typically seen as unmanly.”[14]

Mistreatment of this hippy-Quaker counter culture that Hay had associated with at the time was common where he was in Richmond. He and/or his friends would often be called out or shamed in public because they were seen as unpatriotic or lacking in manliness. “It could be a pretty hostile experience,” Hay recalls, “and you would go into stores and they would refuse to serve you, and one time when I was walking back from town some of the Richmond folks sort of walked around me and threatened to beat me up and all the rest of it. You know, one time when I walked down town someone threw a beer can at me and it hit me in the head.”[15]

Despite the scrutiny that Hay endured in Richmond, Indiana, he still did not budge on his stance against the conflict, and war in general. As the war progressed into the early 1970s, opposition became more mainstream so to speak after President Nixon ordered the bombing of Laos and the invasion of Cambodia, two areas in South Vietnam were not only trade routes but were also where the North Vietnamese “had taken refuge from the fighting”[16] When these actions taken by the president became public knowledge, especially the invasion of Cambodia, Hay says “more and more of the country began to turn against [the war], and so then of course it became less difficult to be a protester against the war.”[17] After this information came to light, large scale anti war protests, violent and nonviolent alike became more common, especially in colleges and universities. Hay did not discuss with me his personal experiences with protests at Earlham, other than his aforementioned friends that tore up their draft cards. Across the nation however, protests on university campuses became more common as Brands states: “On hundreds of campuses across the country students boycotted classes and faculty suspended their teaching in favor of discussion…”[18] However, Hay did participate in the anti-war protest march on Washington D.C. in 1971. While where he was he says was a peaceful protest, other protesters in other parts of the city were tear gassed by the police. He says “[when I was] on the bus and headed back to Earlham feeling positive about publicly expressing my belief that the war was wrong.”[19]

The war in Vietnam was possibly one of the most controversial wars in terms of the United State’s motive for intervention in the country’s history up until that point. Objection to this war amongst citizens such as Tom Hay and his peers were on both religious and moral grounds, and they, like so many others did not let their objection to the war stop at more than just words. As more and more came to light about this war, more and more protests against came into the forefront of American culture, and as did the hippy counter culture of nonviolence and moral objection to war.


[1] Telephone interview with Tom Hay, April 4, 2016

[2] [Hay] interview

[3] H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 152

[4] [Hay] interview

[5] [Hay] interview

[6] [Hay] interview

[7] [Hay] interview

[8]  Draft Resister Upheld In Objecting to Viet War: Draft Resister Upheld In Rejecting Viet War Adopted by Hundreds Denial of Guarantees,” The Washington Post, Times Herald, December 25, 1969 [ProQuest]

[9] Goldfarb, Ronald L.. 1966. “Three Conscientious Objectors”. American Bar Association Journal 52 (6). American Bar Association: 564–67

[10] [Hay] interview

[11] [Hay] interview

[12] Email interview with Tom Hay, May 2, 2016

[13] [Hay] interview

[14] [Hay] e-mail interview

[15] [Hay] interview

[16]  Brands, 170

[17] [Hay] interview

[18] Brands, 170

[19] [Hay] e-mail interview

A New Campus Culture: The Anti-War Movement and Education Reform at Dickinson College

By Sarah Goldberg

Students protest the Vietnam War outside of Denny on May 6, 1970 (Photo courtesy of Pierce Bounds).

“I’ve never been a radical,” insists former anti-Vietnam War activist Pierce Bounds.[1] In an oral history interview about his years at Dickinson College, Bounds laments the historical treatment of the student anti-war movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s: “There’s been a lot written about veterans coming back and being spat on and I think most of that is urban myth.”[2] Bill Poole, a classmate of Bounds, agrees: “We really played at being hippies and played at being freaks.”[3] Yet the narrative of radical leftist student protest certainly dominates conventional historiography. Popular images of the period depict violent student protest leading to mass destruction of property; film footage features leftist ideologues calling for anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist revolutions.[4] Historian H.W. Brands aligns with this mainstream historical perspective by highlighting the radical organization Students for a Democratic Society as the face of the student anti-war movement. Focusing his analysis on the work of SDS leader Tom Hayden, Brands quotes the organization’s “earnestly provocative” manifesto and links the organization to its most extreme faction, the Weathermen, a group known for their violent tactics of bombing and riots.[5] While Brands focuses on the anti-war movement’s most radical moments, Bounds’ testimony of social change and peaceful activism at Dickinson College seems a world away. Bounds’ unique college experience highlights a movement born not of the radical left, but instead of a generational adolescence that inspired social changes even beyond anti-war activism. Bounds’ memories of student protest culture ultimately complicate Brands’ radical narrative by framing the trajectory of Dickinson’s moderate anti-war movement in the context of a larger generational shift towards new campus norms rather than radical politics.

Bounds’ denunciation of radicalism was rooted in his conservative childhood. While Brands uniformly labels the Baby Boomer generation as solidly liberal, [6] Bounds admits that he supported Nixon in 1960 and even wrote an essay in support of the war in Vietnam during junior high.[7] Bounds’ parents boasted a solid Republican voting record and his comfortable white-collar family had little reason to challenge the status quo. Yet as Bounds was introduced to the working class neighborhoods of Philadelphia, he began to question the political influence of his parents.[8] His growing political consciousness was further fueled by a “wake up call,” when an older peer became one of the first casualties in Vietnam. “The more you knew about [the Vietnam War], the more you realized it was kind of a hopeless policy,” explains Bounds.[9] As the young Bounds witnessed the horrors of Vietnam both in his community and on television, he grew more involved in liberal politics, much to the chagrin of his parents.

Far from dissuading Bounds, the disapproval of his parents merely encouraged his liberal leanings. “All of us baby boomers hit college and we knew we didn’t want to be like our parents,” explains Bounds of the widening generational divide.[10] He and his friends actively sought ways to distinguish themselves politically from their parents. Bounds and his friends liked “irritating our elders” by flaunting a copy of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. “I never read it. Most people never read it. But we loved to hold that little red book,” Bounds reminisces.[11] Rebellious acts sought to distance the Baby Boomers from what they saw as the Establishment. Judge Edward Guido, a peer of Bounds at Dickinson, recalls the historical context of this division: “Our parents were the World War II generation… and so they didn’t understand how these snot nosed little kids, who had everything handed to them their whole life, couldn’t appreciate [it]. How dare they question authority?”[12] Bounds notes that this resentment could even break families up entirely. While his own parents tacitly accepted his growing liberalism, he recalls that some of his peers were disowned for their involvement in the anti-war movement and other liberal causes.[13] For the Baby Boomers, however, this generational divide was not a burden but rather the primary appeal of liberal politics.

Yet as Bounds left the conservativism of home, he soon found that Dickinson College in 1967 was far from the hotbed of leftist politics described by Brands.[14] Perhaps Berkeley or Ann Arbor were swept up in new liberal attitudes, but changing social norms had yet to reach the sleepy town of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Dickinson clung steadfastly to the rules of the 1940s and 1950s, mandating strict limitations on student independence. “All of the old rules, social rules were still firmly in place,” remembers Bounds, describing how female students had to obey a 10 pm curfew or else risk “big trouble.”[15] Former Dickinson College President Bill Durden recalls similar restrictions: “We couldn’t go upstairs [in a women’s dormitory]; we would have been, you know, arrested or something.”[16] Dickinson’s harsh policies represented the last vestiges of an age of institutional conservativism. As Bounds arrived on campus, so did major social and cultural upheavals.

At first, these new liberal impulses represented only a minority of Dickinson students. Bounds notes that the vast majority of his peers were far removed from the hippie ideal remembered in survey histories. Among “the fringe,” however, anti-war and anti-Establishment sentiment had begun to flourish. Bounds reminisces fondly about the “back of the dining hall culture,” where artists, musicians, hippies and protesters smoked cigarettes and chatted for hours.[17] “We were young kids and we were full of piss and vinegar,” remembers Poole, recalling that he and his friends in the fringe were eager to protest just about anything.[18] During his freshman year, Bounds describes the liberal factions of the school as a secluded minority.

Yet it wasn’t long before the national move towards liberalism infiltrated the campus mainstream. Soon, even bastions of conservative culture like the fraternities and ROTC started to challenge social norms. The sexual revolution arrived at Dickinson shortly after Bounds’ arrival, challenging gender roles and catalyzing protests for co-ed dormitories.[19] Recreational drug use grew more common, as the administration frantically tried to prevent the spread of drug culture: “Marihuana [sic] is part of the student’s environment,” admitted Dickinson’s Drug Education Committee.[20] Bounds also cites an “amazing blossoming of the arts” as inspired students pursued their creative impulses.[21] At Dickinson, the movement towards a more liberal campus was assisted by a wave of younger professors with progressive ideals of education and a relaxed sense of hierarchy. “The professors weren’t necessarily our enemies,” recalls Durden, noting that some even allowed students to call them by their first names.[22] As the college moved gradually toward a more liberal campus environment in late 1960s, almost all students felt empowered to challenge authority in ways that would have seemed impossible just a few years ago.

This new attention to student’s rights culminated in D.E.C.L.A.R.E Day, or Dickinson’s Expression Concerning Learning and Re-Evaluating of Education.[23] On March 5, 1969, the administration announced a moratorium on classes so that students could participate in discussions with faculty. Students hoped to address the conservative academic environment that felt anachronistic among the social and cultural shifts of the late 1960s. “My courses add up to a degree – do they add up to an education?” questioned the front page of The Dickinsonian.[24] In particular, students called for “revision of the school’s grading system, reduction in course distribution requirements, reduction of the course load for freshmen and sophomores, opening of co-educational living units, and a new college government arrangement.”[25] The college began a rapid institutional shift to catch up with the new culture of the campus. “[D.E.C.L.A.R.E. Day] was just to rethink the whole social order of things and out of that came what you’re still living under,” explains Bounds.[26] Kisner-Woodward Hall soon opened as the first co-educational dormitory and academic reform swept through the college. When Mary Frances Watson, the Dean of Women at Dickinson College, spoke to first-year women and their parents during the 1969 orientation program, her speech notes read: “DC is not the conservative little college in Penna. that will ‘take care of my daughter, see that she’s in at 10, never tastes a drink, etc.”[27] The Dickinson of Bounds’ freshman year was gone. The Baby Boomers ensured that even the conservative Dickinson could not go unaffected by the national shift towards generational empowerment.

Ultimately, the anti-war movement at Dickinson followed a similar trajectory as other campus reform efforts. Popular opposition to the Vietnam War moved liberal politics out of the domain of the fringe and into mainstream campus discourse. Inspired by this same generational empowerment to challenge authority, the larger student body soon embraced criticism of the war. By 1970, Bounds remembers that “the majority… were fed up and joined the march.”[28] As a member of ROTC, Durden was as far away from the fringe as you could get. Yet even he recalls “internally questioning, ‘What is this all about?’ This is a war that didn’t seem to be making sense.”[29] These doubts were compounded by a fear of the draft: “More and more people our age were getting shot,” remembers Bounds, “that really came to the forefront of our minds when the lottery system was introduced.”[30] As fear of the draft increased as the war in Vietnam expanded to Laos and Cambodia, opposition to the war grew stronger among all social groups. No longer a subculture of the school, the anti-war movement in 1969 and 1970 was poised to act on this new spirit of youth liberation.

Due to the mainstream nature of the movement, anti-war protest at Dickinson was far removed from the violent scenes described by Brands at other universities. By 1968, Dickinson was merely catching up to the true pioneers in campus culture. “We weren’t the Berkeley types,” stresses Poole, labeling the protest culture at Dickinson “middle class hippie-ism.”[31] For all their successes in pushing forward co-ed dorms, protest culture at Dickinson was nothing like the radicalism of SDS. Citing his Quaker background, Bounds notes that he “never had any stomach for [violence].”[32] The relatively restrained disposition of even Bounds’ liberal subculture highlights the campus’s prevailing moderate nature. At Dickinson’s largest anti-war protest, more than a thousand marched through Carlisle to the War College in May 1970 in reaction to the shootings at Kent State and the invasion of Cambodia.[33] “I remember saying that in a lot of these protest marches, it was really, that was the social way to connect with women back then,” remembers Guido, who chose to march separately from the crowd to demonstrate his serious dedication to the cause.[34] Bounds admits that while he and his fringe took the cause quite seriously, the protests were hardly a gloomy affair.[35] During the strike in the days leading to the march, students voted against shutting the school down and ensured that all students who wished to go to classes could be able to do so. “We were a very polite group of radicals,” jokes Poole, “We wanted our voices heard, but we didn’t want to disrupt anybody else’s life.”[36] After the march on the War College, the anti-war movement gradually faded away as the activist spirit died down over summer vacation.

Bounds’ account of student protest culture at Dickinson offers an interesting counter-narrative to Brands’ tale of radical activism. While Brands relates campus protest to nationalist leftist politics, Bounds’ memories seem to connect the anti-war movement more closely with campus reform protests for coed dorms or a relaxed academic hierarchy. Among Dickinson’s largely moderate student body, opposition to the Vietnam War was inextricable from a larger movement of generational empowerment. Despite its ideological distance from the radical left, Bounds looks back on his student activist days as a formative experience: “Those four or five years were unlike anything since,” Bounds remembers fondly, “It was a great time.”[37]


[1] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Interview with William Poole by Christian Miller and Jason Snow, October 24, 2004, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[4] Flint, Jerry, “Students Debate New Left Tactics: Seek to Battle Draft and Set Up Radical Organizations,” New York Times (New York, NY), July 3, 1967.

[5] H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 153.

[6] Brands, American Dreams, 213.

[7] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Interview with Judge Edward Guido by Flint Angelovic and Michael Gogoj, February 22, 2005, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[13] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[14] H.W. Brands, American Dreams, 153.

[15] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[16] Interview with William G. Durden by Michael Gogoj and Jason Snow, December 8, 2004, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[17] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[18] Interview with William Poole by Christian Miller and Jason Snow, October 24, 2004, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[19] Interview with William G. Durden by Michael Gogoj and Jason Snow, December 8, 2004, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[20] “Report of Drug Education Committee,” The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA), February 7, 1969.

[21] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[22] Interview with William G. Durden by Michael Gogoj and Jason Snow, December 8, 2004, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[23] “March 5, Declare Day, 1969,” The Dickinsonian, (Carlisle, PA), March 7, 1969.

[24] Ibid.

[25] “Declare Day,” The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA), March 13, 1969.

[26] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[27] Watson, Mary Frances. “Notes for Orientation Speech,” June 13, 1969, Box 4, Folder 7, President’s Office Series 4, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[28] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[29] Interview with William G. Durden by Michael Gogoj and Jason Snow, December 8, 2004, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[30] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[31] Interview with William Poole by Christian Miller and Jason Snow, October 24, 2004, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[32] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[33] For further reading on student-led protests at Dickinson College in May 1970, check out The Dickinsonia Project’s “The May Crisis: Voices of Protest at Dickinson College in 1970.”

[34] Interview with Judge Edward Guido by Flint Angelovic and Michael Gogoj, February 22, 2005, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[35] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[36] Interview with William Poole by Christian Miller and Jason Snow, October 24, 2004, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[37] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

The Oil Crisis of 1973

young dad

Donald LaBelle around age 17. Credit: the LaBelle Family.

By Molly LaBelle

In 1973, Don LaBelle was newly independent. Living in a small apartment on his own in Rochester, New Hampshire, he commuted each day to school and work. Don grew up alongside many brothers and sisters in poor family and worked for most of his childhood. As a teenager, he played football, played the guitar, and was deeply invested in his hair. He was a typical young boy of the era, trying to get by while still enjoying his youth and freedom. However, his youth was quickly taken away from him when the first oil crisis hit: “all of the sudden I had to spend a lot more money on gas. You had to make sure you had gas” he remembers [1]. Like Americans across the country in 1973, Don was forced to make sacrifices like he never had to before. For the first time after the birth of American consumer culture, people were not able to get something they depended on for their daily lives. H.W. Brands puts it best when he notes that “gas shortages were un-American, something people in other countries endured but not citizens of the United States. And Americans were used to being in a hurry and driving fast”[2]. Brands’ interpretation of the crisis helps us to understand that American people now began to question their entitlements to material goods that they had always enjoyed, entitlements that were uniquely American.

The oil crisis and shortage began in October of 1973 when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries enacted an embargo on oil exports as a political weapon against Isreal. The use of oil as a weapon began as a result of Israeli occupation in Egypt and portions of the Sinai Desert and Gaza Strip. The occupation occurred after a violent and short war with Egypt that easily pitted the countries against one another. By stopping the flow of oil, the OPEC nations were directly punishing Israel for its actions, however, they were also indirectly punishing the United States for quietly taking Israel’s side in the conflict. As relations with Middle Eastern countries deteriorated, the U.S. was warned numerous times that if it did not stop its ally with the enemy, the OPEC nations would institute their embargo, essentially stopping the flow of 12% of the United States total oil supply.

While the embargo certainly had an effect on foreign oil affairs, things were already bad on the home front when it hit. Robert Lifset argues that the shortage of oil came long before the embargo, which happened to be a convenient “scapegoat” for the American government[3]. Before the embargo, the American fuel market had already been under strain that would cause a shortage. According to Lifset, when the U.S. was at peak oil production in 1971, President Nixon froze prices. At this time, gas prices were high and heating oil prices were relatively low. This led to the increased demand for heating oil thus increased focus on this by the production companies. The lack of focus on gas created a dramatic drop in supply that caused shortages four months before the OPEC embargo in June. This, then, was only worsened when the embargo was enacted in November of 1973. Both domestic and foreign oil were scarce and the United States bore the brunt of the shortage.

Don at his childhood home… an oil truck can be seen in the driveway. Credit: the LaBelle Family

Changes in lifestyle began to show throughout America as soon as the shortage began. What little luxury and leisure people enjoyed slipped away quickly. Don remembers the loss of Sunday drives most clearly:

“This is gonna sound funny, but all the time when I was growing up, when I was young, they used to have something called a Sunday drive. That’s why you hear people called Sunday drivers. And it was a real big thing. People, on Sunday, would go on nice long drives, just kind of exploring in their cars. You know, go to places that they haven’t been before. Go up north… people from Massachusetts would come up. People would take drives to different parts of the state, visit some relative that was quite a way away. Always on a Sunday. Then you couldn’t do that, because you weren’t sure if you were going to have gas[4]”.

While this may not have been a major loss for some Americans, others like Don, felt that a certain charm of American life had suddenly faded away. The U.S. was a place where hardworking people like himself could enjoy things like Sunday drives and explorations. Now that Americans were confined to their homes in fear that they would run out of gas, they felt trapped.

In many ways, the oil crisis took Don’s teenage “innocence” and optimism away from him to soon. He loved his 1968 Ford Grand Torino GT Fastback that he had worked so hard to purchase. Now, as he struggled to finance his travels, it seemed like more of a burden than a luxury. Now, when he went to the gas station, there were feelings of fear rather than relaxation. Don recalls that before the crisis people never pumped their own gas. “The employees would pump it for you and you would get out and clean your windows and talk to people around you[5]”. During the shortage, people came to the gas station on edge and worried that fuel would run out before they got the chance to fill up: “people were more stubborn than anything” because they wanted their gas and their freedom, Don recollects.

Especially in New England, were people on edge. Here,the crisis posed unique threats and problems. Since the embargo was passed in November, it fell right before the eve of a typically harsh New England winter. And if gas was in low supply, naturally heating oil was as well. Don knew the importance of this heating oil in such a cold area: without it, your pipes would freeze and this would cause extreme damage to your home. You had to have heating oil, just like you had to have gas. Newspapers in the region warned that New England would be hit the hardest as the rising demand for heating oil would not be met in time for the winter. One New York Times article predicted that since New England’s oil needs were met primarily by independent companies, the shortage could have a deep and lasting impact on the area[6].

Some good things did come out of the crisis. The shortage of oil certainly helped people to realize that America’s energy independence was crucial to its security interests. Americans began to seek alternative forms of energy and improve the forms they were already using. Don became acutely aware of this after the crisis. A short article in the New York Times from 1973 details how one college professor began trying to use wind as a cleaner and more dependable form of energy in the United States[7]. In addition to efforts like these, car companies began to make smaller, more efficient cars. This change was a lot closer to home for most Americans. Even Don himself put an effort towards depending less on oil. After the crisis, he made sure to buy a smaller car that was more efficient on gas. He sacrificed looks and style for practicality.

In the midst of the oil crisis and the years following it, Americans developed into different kinds of consumers. Instead of taking and taking without any thought, they began to realize how unique America was with its prosperous capitalist society. Don explained that he had never experienced anything being rationed before, much like many Americans during that time period. American consumer culture continued to grow and expand up to the 1970s and allowed people to have whatever they wanted in almost no time. The gas shortage caused them to question the lifestyle they had now become accustomed to.

“You never had food that was rationed; there wasn’t anything that you couldn’t get enough of that you needed. Other countries have experienced this quite a bit. But in the United States, you never had that before. You know, you go to the grocery store and the shelves are all full all the time, or you go to buy clothes and the shelves are all full… or shoes, or any commodity. And it kind of really made you wonder, if it can happen with oil, what else can it happen with?[8]

It was feelings like these that caused people all over the country to realize that they were not always in control. They would not always be able to get the things they needed or wanted whenever they needed or wanted them. The oil crisis of 1973 and the similar crisis that followed in 1979 helped to dampen Americans’ sense of entitlement and open people’s eyes to the role that foreign affairs could play in their daily lives.


[1] Phone interview with Donald LaBelle, April 20, 2016.

[2] H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 196.

[3] Lifset, Robert D, “A New Understanding of the American Energy Crisis of the 1970s”. Historical Social Research. (2014), 39.

[4] Phone interview with Donald LaBelle, April 20, 2016.

[5] Phone interview with Donald LaBelle, May 1, 2016.

[6] “Oil Outlook Dark For New England,” New York Times, September 29, 1973 [ProQuest]

[7] Hot Air 1973,” New York Times, January 1, 1973 [ProQuest]

[8] Phone interview with Donald LaBelle, April 20, 2016.

Understanding Redemption

Wade Hampton (1818-1902)

Wade Hampton (1818-1902)

Many white Southerners labeled the return of “home rule” following the Radical era of Reconstruction as a period of “Redemption.”  That word, however, contained a very bitter note for anybody who believed that the aftermath of the Civil War promised equality to all and a socioeconomic revolution for the region’s dispossessed.  For southern blacks, in particular, the Redeemers represented an ominous threat, not only to their rights as freemen, but to their lives.  How far Redemption might go in undoing the reforms of Reconstruction –and how violent its advocates might be in that process– remained to be seen by the end of the 1870s.  However, it was already clear during the Centennial Year of 1876 that violence against blacks was looming.  The Hamburg Massacre in South Carolina during July 1876 offered one of the most gruesome examples.  Foner describes the wanton violence against blacks in the small town, but he leaves out a discussion of the subsequent role of

Prince Rivers (1822-1887)

Prince Rivers (1822-1887)

Prince Rivers, the black militia leader and local trial judge charged with investigating the aftermath of the massacre.  A new website from historian Stephen Berry (CSI: Dixie) offers a vivid account of the massacre and the complicated role that Rivers tried to uphold during the proceedings afterward.  Students in History 118 should remember Prince Rivers, because he was the former contraband slave who been “discovered” by James Miller McKim (Class of 1828) and who subsequently emerged as a leader in the First South Carolina volunteers and a hero during the Civil War.  Rivers also turned out to be a symbol of the betrayal of Reconstruction’s promise.  Students should be able to explain why after reading Berry’s narrative of the Hamburg Massacre.

David Blight on Frederick Douglass, Race and Reunion

David Blight, a history professor at Yale University, is one of the nation’s leading experts on the Civil War and Reconstruction eras.  This week, students in History 118 will be reading an article of Blight’s that appeared in the Journal of American History in 1989 and served as a precursor to his prize-winning book, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (2001).  The article, “‘For Something Beyond the Battlefield’: Frederick Douglass and the Struggle for the Memory of the Civil War,” offers a vivid portrait of an aging and angry Douglass fighting to preserve what he believed was the central legacy of the Civil War –the promise of emancipation.  Douglass, a former runaway slave who became a great abolitionist orator and writer and the most famous black American of the nineteenth century, was distraught but still defiant over what he considered the betrayals of the “new birth of freedom” that occurred after the Civil War.  Students who read the article carefully will learn a great deal about the nuances of the period and should be able to answer a series of key questions.  For example,  how did the great orator attempt to use the 1876 dedication of a Freedmen’s Memorial Monument to Abraham Lincoln to forge what Blight described as a place for blacks within the national identity?  Why did Douglass claim that “the future historian will turn to the year 1883 to find the most flagrant example of national deterioration”?   What exactly was Douglass fighting against during this period?  How important in the contest over defining the war’s legacy was the movement known as “The Lost Cause”?  Less than a year before he died, at the age of 76, Douglass sounded an especially poignant note in what became one of his famous Dedication Day speeches.  “I shall never forget the difference,” he said, “between those who fought for liberty and those who fought for slavery; between those who fought to save the Republic and those who fought to destroy it.”  His frustration was palpable and remains understandable but students should ask themselves how other Americans from that period, even those sympathetic to Douglass, might have reacted to such divisive commentary.

In March 2016, historian Eric Foner came to Dickinson to discuss these issues and their legacy for modern America at a special conference on Reconstruction hosted by the House Divided Project.  Here are his short comments and here is a link to the video from the entire three-day gathering.

Northern Reconstruction

Southerners were not the only Americans whose lives were transformed during the decades immediately following the Civil War.  Northerners did not face the same challenges of political reconstruction or economic transition in the aftermath of slavery, but they did face a series of revolutionary experiences.  Students in History 118 should be able to identify the main social, political and economic forces that ripped apart the North during the 1870s and 1880s, but they should also be able to explain the story of westward expansion in great depth.  That was a story of unexpected complexity, one that can be at least partially summarized through a close reading of this famous painting by John Gast, entitled, “American Progress,” (1872).


Southern Reconstruction

Political life in the South during Reconstruction kept changing at a rapid pace.  In his book, A Short History of Reconstruction, Eric Foner charts a remarkably complicated set of factors that elevated some groups over others at different times across various states during the period between 1865 and 1877.   Once Congress wrested control of the political restoration process away from President Johnson in 1866 and 1867, the result was a brief revolutionary heyday for black political leadership.  Yet there was always violent resistance lurking in southern communities determined to stop participation in government by the ex-slaves. The fight culminated with the battle to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment and suppress the rise of the Ku Klux Klan across the South.  This was a challenge that even a more conservative figures in the Republican Party seemed to embrace –at least at first.  President Grant led the fight to crush Klan-inspired political violence –a determination that surprised some contemporaries who had voted for Grant under the slogan, “Let Us Have Peace.”   Yet, even though the post-war Klan was crushed by federal action in the early 1870s, the extent of white support for black politics seemed to collapse as the 1870s drew to a close.  Consider some of the following images and see if you can explain any or all of them t can be used to help illustrate important points about American political and economic life in the South during the 1870s.

Word Cloud inspired by Foner’s Short History

Reconstruction Word Cloud

Black Senators and Congressmen, circa 1872

Black Political Leaders

Anti-Freedmen’s Bureau political cartoon (1866):

Freedmen's Bureau Cartoon

Map of the Barrow Plantation, during and after slavery:

Barrow Plantation


King Andy by NastAmerican politics has always been pretty rough, but perhaps no period was as bare-knuckled and partisan as the Reconstruction era.  The confrontations involved more than just political combat between Democrats and Republicans.  There were factions at odds with factions.  Most notably, President Andrew Johnson waged war against Radical Republicans.  These men had once been Unionist allies, but now found themselves in bitter disagreement over Reconstruction policy in the South.  The result of this escalating conflict was the impeachment crisis of 1868.  Thomas Nast, a leading cartoonist for Harpers Weekly depicted this crisis in a brilliant series of cartoons for the magazine.  Please browse the selection of these cartoons and select one that seems to embody some of the most important insights from Eric Foner’s history of the period.